Blockchain-based athlete financing platform Fantium has raised US$2 million in a pre-seed round that included the involvement of prominent Web 3.0 figures and athletes.
Backers included Sandbox co-founder Sebastien Borget, Sorare growth lead Brian O’Hagan, OneFootball chief executive Lucas von Cranach and 2020 US Open tennis champion Dominic Thiem.
Swiss-based Fantium helps athletes fund their profession by allowing fans to purchase non-fungible tokens (NFT) that promise a share of seasonal or career earnings from prize money or sponsorship.
The amount that fans are entitled to receive is dictated by the athlete, who can choose to reinvest the revenue gained in coaching, physiotherapy or travel. Some sports, particularly tennis, golf and motor racing, are relatively expensive to pursue a career in.
On top of the direct financial gain, athletes can add further incentives such as perks and access to exclusive events, similar to the NFTs offered by many rights holders.
“If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense that only companies have access to money,” said Jonathan Ludwig, co-founder and chief executive of Fantium. “There are billions of sports enthusiasts in the world who would love to invest in these athletes and become part of their journey.
“By connecting these talents with sports enthusiasts, we are making the sport more equal because as a young athlete, your success will no longer depend on your financial background.”
Fantium says the underlying technology behind NFTs will enable the revenue sharing element of the venture and believes it can create a new asset class that could potentially expand to other markets. Pre-empting suggestions that NFTs might be classified as securities in some markets, Fantium says it welcomes regulation and will comply with any legislation.
“We believe that regulation will be good for the NFT industry overall, as it provides trust and transparency for NFT owners,” added Ludwig. “The dynamic and fragmented regulatory environment with specific requirements in each jurisdiction will remain one of our biggest challenges in the next few years, especially since our goal is to provide frictionless access to athlete investment in a compliant way.”
The first athlete NFTs will launch in the fourth quarter of this year.
The cost of pursuing a career in a professional sport is nothing new, especially in individual pursuits or those with a high barrier to entry.
“A season on the professional tennis tour is costly,” noted Fantium investor Thiem. “Many young players are struggling a lot, especially when their parents cannot afford their career.”
For those without access to private funding or sponsorship, more novel approaches are sometimes required. Back in 2003, aspiring Formula One driver Justin Wilson set up a up a company and sold shares in himself, promising to give investors a share of his future earnings in motorsport. He went on to drive for Minardi and Jaguar.
Fantium’s venture can be regarded as the modern equivalent, using the blockchain and the utility attached to facilitate the revenue share